A team effort

Manufacturers are prepping for the upcoming Super Bowl with contests, promotions and unique recipes. All retailers have to do is partner up.

By Elizabeth Louise Hatt

Some consumers watch the Super Bowl with a small group of family and friends huddled around the TV. For others it has become a much larger event. However fans chose to enjoy the game, one thing is consistent, a lot of food will be consumed.

While retailers are preparing to have their shelves wiped of chips and beer, they should also be paying extra attention to the produce and fresh departments. With good-for-you eating habits on the rise, fruits and vegetables are getting more playtime at football parties than their less healthy counterparts. Fresh produce suppliers are in the game with new products, innovative recipes, mobile websites and in-store sampling and promotions.

“According to consumer research, during the past three Super Bowls, vegetables were the No. 1 produce item consumed, with fresh salads sixth on the list,” says Tristan Kieva, director of marketing for Ready Pac Foods. “Retailers have been increasing their focus on offering fresh items for this event consistently.” She adds that Ready Pac, based in Irwindale, Calif., has seen an approximate 60% lift in dollar sales during this timeframe for its fruit and vegetable party platters.

According to industry observers, consumers hosting and attending Super Bowl parties are planning the fare early, and they want new meal and appetizer ideas to impress their fellow partygoers. More often than not, that means they will not bring something they have not tried themselves.

This was the inspiration behind the collection of recipes on Wholly Guacamole’s Homegating Headquarters’ website, www.eatwholly.com/homegatinghq. In its second year—consumers returned to the site an average of seven times throughout its inaugural season—the website features a recipe section, party advice and tips where you can download a shopping list as well as a sweepstakes and recipe contest.

“Customers tell us that they want to try new recipes during the football season because they won’t bring anything new to a Super Bowl party,” says Tracy Altman, vice president of marketing at Saginaw, Texas-based Fresherized Foods, maker of Wholly, adding that the company does 30% to 40% of its sales during this season.

This year the site launched a couple months closer to game time and with a new set of partners that Altman says, “offer more variety.” “We are finding that peoples’ tastes have expanded; they are more adventurous and not afraid of spicy flavors,” says Altman. “There isn’t much space in the produce section to advertise, so it is our job to support the retailer by preparing the consumer before they enter the store.”

To further the Homegating concept in-store, Wholly is hosting a set-up contest which retailers can cross-merchandise recipe ingredients and submit a photo for prizes.

The Sabra Dipping Co. capitalizes on a different approach for introducing people to their product early. The White Plains, N.Y.-based company has a Sabra Tour Truck that travels across the country giving out 2-ounce samples of the company’s products. “Some retailers love the idea and invited us to hand out products in store parking lots. At the same time, there were demos being conducted inside the store and promotions at the shelf. It was kind of a perfect scenario,” says Pete Loizzo, retail marketing manager for Sabra. “It has been a huge driver in increasing our household penetration and our awareness.”

The company is introducing fresh salsa and guacamole in an effort to expand its product offering. “We are trying to build a dips destination in the deli with all our products,” Loizzo adds. “Being in the deli section is very beneficial. People tend to shop that section looking for new innovations and products.”

Setting up for sales
Wholly Guacamole and Sabra are not the only brands testing retailers’ creativity. January is the Idaho-East Oregon Onion Committee’s (IEOOC) Onion Lover’s Month, followed by the Idaho Potato Commission’s (IPC) Potato Lovers Month in February—two events known for their national retail display contests.

This year the IEOOC’s theme, in support of their most recent campaign, is All-American Winners. Retailers are not required to use the IEOOC’s POS materials, says Sherise Jones, marketing director, but they must keep to the theme. “There is nothing more American than football,” says Jones. “There is a lot of opportunity for retailers to use the Super Bowl to move into this contest and it could prove to be very instrumental in winning for them.”

As part of the campaign the Parma, Idaho-based organization put out a recipe book with kid- and family-friendly snack ideas, including a Caramelized Onion Dip and Chocolate Onion Tart. “The traditional onion bloom can be a bit labor intensive so we’ve developed recipes specifically for retailers to share with consumers that are easy and enjoyable,” says Jones.

The Idaho Potato Commission Retail Display Contest, which is approaching its 21st year, received a record amount of entries in 2011. The prize pool included $150,000 in cash and prizes. With the Super Bowl now taking place in February, potato displays that cross-merchandise recipe ingredients can stimulate impulse sales. “The neat thing about the Super Bowl is that it’s a Mecca for finger foods. That lends itself to potato skins, all sorts of potato salads and other potato-related things that are easy to eat,” says Seth Pemsler, the vice president of retail and international at the IPC. The Eagle, Idaho-based IPC, specifically, works with retailers to create customized cross-merchandising and meal solution programs.

Since many party purchases are often impulse, signage, tear-offs and, recently popular with smartphone users, QR codes bridge the gap between consumers at-home plans and in-store shopping. QR codes connecting the shopper to complete recipes and meal solutions is a popular marketing tactic with manufacturers recently.

Hormel Foods Corp. is using QR codes to promote its various products across the entire store. “We are using on-shelf promotions and QR codes on signage and product packaging to provide links to quick recipe ideas for our portfolio of products while consumers are in-store,” says Karen S. Wiernik, product manager for Lloyd’s barbeque products at Hormel Foods.

This year for the Super Bowl, the Austin, Minn.-based company is partnering with retailers to feature Hormel and Lloyd’s barbeque items through displays and advertising features. The company is using integrated free standing inserts, changing the creative on www.hormel.com, taking over the homepage of www.coupons.com, using retailer online display advertisements and in-store recipe take-ones and shelf banners.

Think quick!
The basics of boosting impulse sales for a Super Bowl event is about reminding consumers what they want to make and inspiring them with new ideas, say observers. The easier retailers make it for the consumers to know how to use the products, the more they will sell.

Cacique, a brand of Hispanic cheeses, chorizos and creams, puts usage instructions right on the packaging. The City of Industry, Calif.-based manufacturer targets two market segments—the traditional Hispanic market (first generation, Spanish-speaking consumers) and the general market—and “every retailer educates their consumers differently,” says Tirso Iglesias, Cacique’s director of sales and marketing.

Cacique’s offerings include a variety of cheeses popular for tailgating and home event snack platters. For example, Iglesias says the Cotija, a drier, aged cheese with a nice robust flavor, can provide guacamole with a new flavor profile.

“We are in an advantageous position,” says Iglesias. “Our products are made with all-natural ingredients. Nutritionally, we are considered a very healthy item within the Hispanic diet. For football and Super Bowl, product interest will depend on how astute consumers are. Retailers will have folks go right for the traditional items, but our products have the versatility that they can interchange with some of those international methods and make something different.” The company also finds consumers adding its Chorizo varieties—beef, pork and soy—to nachos.

Despite lacking the finger food characteristic, salads can play off the impulse urge as well. John Burge, vice president of sales and marketing for Classic Salads, based in Watsonville, Calif., advises retailers add secondary displays for salad promotions. “We like to see them on an endcap cooler or secondary display that says ‘Here are salads that are on sale.’ It works wonders because they don’t get lost in the 20-foot sea of all the other salads that are out there.”

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